Minister quotes Derry Girls in appeal over political stalemate in North

Humphreys tells Shared Island event final words of TV comedy ‘appropriate’ for today

A Government minister has urged Northern Ireland’s political parties to keep in mind the final words of TV comedy Derry Girls as they seek to establish a new power-sharing government.

Minister for Rural and Community Affairs Heather Humphreys quoted the programme's character Erin Quinn from the finale of the Channel 4 series while speaking at the latest event in the Government's Shared Island Dialogue series that promotes north-south relations.

Ms Humphreys told the event in Co Monaghan that the Government wants to see a new power-sharing government established in Northern Ireland "as soon as possible" following the Northern Ireland Assembly elections earlier this month.

She said the Government would work “for a positive and conducive political context for north-south and east-west co-operation” – a reference to the political stalemate in the North over opposition to the Brexit deal that covers trading rules between Northern Ireland and Britain.

The benefits of this interaction were “so important given the depth and breadth of our shared interests and connections” which had flourished over the past 25 years.

The Government was working to "develop and deliver a 'shared island' agenda" on an all-island basis underpinned by the Belfast Agreement, she said.

The minister said the latest Shared Island event took place “against a very fitting backdrop”, referring to the final episode of Derry Girls that paid tribute to the signing of the 1998 agreement that laid the foundation for the Northern Ireland peace process.

The programme’s creator Lisa McGee brought people back to that time “of historic change and of great hope for better days,” said Ms Humphreys, adding that it was appropriate to conclude her remarks to the event with the words of her lead character Erin Quinn, played by Saoirse-Monica Jackson.

In the final episode, the character said: “No matter how scary it is, we have to move on and we have to grow up because things, well, they might just change for the better. So we have to be brave. And if our dreams get broken along the way, we have to make new ones from the pieces.”

Ms Humphreys concluded her speech saying: "I think the parties at Stormont, the Irish Government, everybody here today and everybody who believes in that truly shared island would do well to keep those words in mind."

Rural opportunities

Rural and community groups, businesses, social enterprise groups and government agencies, north and south of the Border, attended the latest Shared Island event at Drumhowan in Co Monaghan to discuss links and co-operation in rural and community development on the island.

The event heard about the opportunities for rural areas with the growth of remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic and an increasing network of working hubs in rural communities.

Investor Mary McKenna, a co-founder of the all-island Awaken Hub network of female entrepreneurs, told the event that the experience of the pandemic had shown that anyone can start a global company “from day one” but they need a large network of personal connections.

Ms McKenna said she had learned how much harder it was for women to access support and to build companies, and that since establishing her social enterprise hub with three other women from north and south of the border two years ago, women had “flocked” to the network.

Many were "not on the radar" of government agencies Invest NI or Enterprise Ireland, which told her that "our economic agencies, north and south, might be missing a trick," she said.

“About half of those women in our community have an idea for a future business and they are just getting their ducks in a row. Many of them have reviewed their lives during the pandemic and have decided that they want something different from what they had before,” she said.